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GRE Claim and Reason Issue Essay

If you have been diligently at work writing practice essays, you may have notice an interesting species of Issue question, one in which there is a claim and reason. I’ve excerpted just such a question from the GRE Issue bank. (Also, if you want to see all the “Claim and Reason” issues, scroll to the very end of this post).

Claim: When planning courses, educators should take into account the interests and suggestions of their students.

Reason: Students are more motivated to learn when they are interested in what they are studying.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.

Let’s say you see only the claim above—as would be the case in your typically issue prompt. Your essay could take several different perspectives, as the examples below illustrate:

Agree

Students are more aware of what is relevant in their lives and what is important for them to learn.

Students may find certain subject material boring, and so their feedback in shaping the curriculum is important.

Disagree

Teachers know what is best for their students and should not blindly acquiesce to the collective will, especially if what the student wants runs contrary to what the teacher knows is best.

Even though students may initially express little interest in a subject, they often can be drawn into the subject and go on to cultivate both an appreciation and a deeper interest in that field.

For each position, agree or disagree, one of the excerpts totally disregards the reason. Can you guess which one? The key to the “Claim and Reason Essay” is to make sure not to forget the reason. See, the reason narrows the scope of the essay, and it is this important qualification that the GRE wants you to consider. By ignoring the reason and merely focusing on the claim, you’re not answering the question, which instructs you to pay attention to the reason.

In the excerpts above, the first instance for the “agree side” and the first instance for the “disagree side” would both be problematic theses, because they ignore the reason. You are basically putting a ceiling on your essay score, of maybe a ‘4’. Though I’m not sure how accurate that assessment is since I’ve never had a student tell me they did just that but otherwise wrote an excellent compelling essay. Perhaps, the graders will penalize you even more drastically for outright disregarding the instructions.

The thing is this type of Issue can be more challenging since the scope is more restricted. That shouldn’t translate to a shorter essay, however. In the example above, the one from the “disagree side”, you could develop one body paragraph that discusses what happens when a student remains bored with a subject.

Oftentimes, lack of interest doesn’t translate to a waste of time. Students may be unaware of what will be applicable in the future. A student yawning during Econ 101, but who still studies for the exams and does well, might find him- or herself using some econ knowledge later in life when he or she goes into investing. Letting students influence the Econ 101 curriculum could very well lead them to focus on something relatively trivial, say sports gambling, and miss out on a more fundamental lesson—a lesson the educator knows will be of greatest use to the students.

Of course after taking the pro-educator side, the essay above would be wise to include a paragraph considering those instances in which students may actually shed some useful insights that could help an educator provide an even a more comprehensive and edifying classroom experience. Because really, does an educator always know what is best for his or her students?

Just like that you have two body paragraphs, and I’m sure it would be easy to come up with another perspective on the issue in a final body paragraph. Keep your sentence structure varied, your vocabulary interesting, and your grammar mistake-free and you should get at least a ‘5’.

One final note is to avoid the following pitfall: responding to the “Claim and Reason” Issue as though it were the Argument Task. Just because you see two sentences does not mean you are no longer in issue territory. Anyhow, argument prompts tend to be much longer, usually a paragraph in length.

For your own edification—because I don’t always know best—every single “Claim and Reason” Issue that could come up test day is listed below. I encourage you to at least look at a few and come up with a mental outline of what your body paragraphs would look like. That way if you get a “Claim and Reason” Issue test day there will be no surprises.

 

“Claim and Reason” Issue prompts from the gre.org website

Claim: It is no longer possible for a society to regard any living man or woman as a hero.

Reason: The reputation of anyone who is subjected to media scrutiny will eventually be diminished.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.

 

Claim: We can usually learn much more from people whose views we share than from those whose views contradict our own.

Reason: Disagreement can cause stress and inhibit learning.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.

 

Claim: Universities should require every student to take a variety of courses outside the student’s major field of study.

Reason: Acquiring knowledge of various academic disciplines is the best way to become truly educated.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.

 

Claim: The best test of an argument is its ability to convince someone with an opposing viewpoint.

Reason: Only by being forced to defend an idea against the doubts and contrasting views of others does one really discover the value of that idea.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.

 

Claim: Any piece of information referred to as a fact should be mistrusted, since it may well be proven false in the future.

Reason: Much of the information that people assume is factual actually turns out to be inaccurate.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.

 

Claim: Nations should suspend government funding for the arts when significant numbers of their citizens are hungry or unemployed.

Reason: It is inappropriate—and, perhaps, even cruel—to use public resources to fund the arts when people’s basic needs are not being met.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.

 

Claim: Many problems of modern society cannot be solved by laws and the legal system.

Reason: Laws cannot change what is in people’s hearts or minds.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.

 

Claim: Imagination is a more valuable asset than experience.

Reason: People who lack experience are free to imagine what is possible without the constraints of established habits and attitudes.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.

 

Claim: The surest indicator of a great nation must be the achievements of its rulers, artists, or scientists.

Reason: Great achievements by a nation’s rulers, artists, or scientists will ensure a good life for the majority of that nation’s people.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.

 

Claim: Researchers should not limit their investigations to only those areas in which they expect to discover something that has an immediate, practical application.

Reason: It is impossible to predict the outcome of a line of research with any certainty.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.

 

Claim: Knowing about the past cannot help people to make important decisions today.

Reason: The world today is significantly more complex than it was even in the relatively recent past.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.

 

Claim: Knowing about the past cannot help people to make important decisions today.

Reason: We are not able to make connections between current events and past events until we have some distance from both.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.

 

Claim: Major policy decisions should always be left to politicians and other government experts.

Reason: Politicians and other government experts are more informed and thus have better judgment and perspective than do members of the general public.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.

 

Claim: Colleges and universities should specify all required courses and eliminate elective courses in order to provide clear guidance for students.

Reason: College students—like people in general—prefer to follow directions rather than make their own decisions.

Write a response in which you discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with the claim and the reason on which that claim is based.

 

About the Author

Chris Lele has been helping students excel on the GRE, GMAT, and SAT for the last 10 years. He is the Lead Content Developer and Tutor for Magoosh. His favorite food is wasabi-flavored almonds. Follow him on Google+!

4 Responses to GRE Claim and Reason Issue Essay

  1. rakusin December 13, 2013 at 3:34 am #

    Chris!
    I like the vocab Wednesday so much. Why there is no new vocab Wednesday this week?

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele December 13, 2013 at 11:50 am #

      Hi Rakusin!

      I was actually sick this week :(. But a post is coming next week :).

  2. Ravian December 11, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    Hey Chris !

    Thanks for the clarification on ‘claim-reason’ issue prompt. I however, have problem in
    understanding the part of prompt which says ‘extent to which you agree or disagree’. I mean you first take side in your above essay and give reasons for the chosen sides, but where is
    the ‘extent to which agree/disagree part’ in your essay?

    Thanks

    • Chris Lele
      Chris Lele December 12, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

      Sure, good question!

      I guess the most important thing is that you should always agree or disagree to some extent with any GRE Issue prompts. Never agree completely–because you are basically putting a ceiling of a “4″ or so on your score.

      In the example I talked about above (excerpted below), I mentioned that my reasoning/example doesn’t always apply. This is implying that I don’t agree 100% with the prompt. You shouldn’t state word for word that you “agree mostly (or somewhat) with this prompt”.

      “Of course after taking the pro-educator side, the essay above would be wise to include a paragraph considering those instances in which students may actually shed some useful insights that could help an educator provide an even a more comprehensive and edifying classroom experience. Because really, does an educator always know what is best for his or her students?”

      So by providing these “instances”, I am showing that I don’t 100% agree.

      Hope that helps!


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